May 21, 2014 by theloneblonde
Integration. Integration is a word that is necessary in my line of work. They throw it around at trainings and in-services. Integrate. Learn the language, go out do things, know people, drink countless coffees at a pace slower then a turtle, pay your bills (or don’t), go to work, be present, make friends, gossip, learn the gossip, smile and nod, agree, disagree, do work, organize projects, drink more coffee, circle dance, sing loudly and off key, learn to make coffee, drink it, work more, speak Albanian, complain about the government, hate on your job, drink raki, make raki, dance, live, etc. Integrate.
In the United States we say things like, “do as the Romans do.” Sometimes it gets a little confusing, because as I have recently learned this is a very American sentiment. There is so much faking it till you make it because sometimes you are the only Roman and everyone is watching you. They try to warn you in your multiple interviews with PC that you will live life in a fish bowl and you need to be prepared for this. It was expected however sometimes when your owners are tapping on the glass you need to do a little trick every once in a while show them you are still alive.
Days can be mundane, like a fish in a bowl you find yourself swimming in circle but all you want to do is jump out and walk around on land or something equally as strange. Yesterday was one of those days. It’s been a year and it was not until yesterday I had one of those experiences where I realized that I was that fish in a bowl that has occasional tricks up her fins.
As I was walking home from my English course that I hold for 10 year olds on Tuesdays, they are all super cute and if you would to write them a letter in English they would really appreciate it and they would want to write you back (ask me for the address). My neighbor stopped me as he normally does to tell me hello when I see him in the road. However this time he was telling me the electricity company came by they had cut the power in our building, then I shortly realized that that meant they were by and they had cut my power. I was pretty confused because he kept telling me I had not paid the power bill. Having paid the bills last week and knowing that everything was paid up to the power company, I thought he was playing a joke on me. He is a bit of a prankster, as is his mother, so confused I climbed up the six floors of stairs to check out the fact that sure enough my power had been cut.
Now, it’s 5pm, I have just spent all day at work and then teaching children for the past two hours. I was exhausted, and I was infuriated. Who thought it would be a good idea to cut the American volunteers power, clearly no one was thinking about the poor fish in her bowl, she just needs a little water to survive and power clearly is my water. Now I know it is not that big of a deal, I can live without power for a few hours, or even a few days, there are many volunteers out there who don’t have those things. So I stormed out of my house, proclaiming my anger and my frustration to my neighbors who told me to stop complaining and go to the center to see if the office for the power was still open.
By law the power office should be open until 8pm. However, someone decided to turn 8pm to 3pm with a little white out. I don’t think those people have ever worked a full day of work. Stalker calling my landlord and screaming at her she told me she would deal with it tomorrow, clearly not soon enough. Still mad I go over to the café in town owned by the family that is like my town host family and tell them my frustration.
Occasionally the family that owns that café leaves myself, or my site mate in charge of the café when they go run errands. As I walked in and shared my story of the day, I was told to wait five minutes and to take over the café. Five minutes later, Bedri had dragged in the Director of the Power in town who also happens to own a store and is planning to open a hotel, and he told him to figure his shit out. He told him I was an American volunteer and I work here for free and clearly someone has made a big mistake so you should apologize. Twenty minutes an apology and a raki later, Power. Integration Level: BOSS.
There is a reason you integrate and there is a reason you drink those coffees, dance in a circle, get you glass bowl tapped on. Why, because that one-day when you need to jump out of your bowl and walk on land and cause a little stir, you got this covered. Going into the eclectic office this morning they greeted me with their usual annoyed that anyone is in the office look, but they knew my name, they knew me as the American and they knew they were sorry for turning off my power and it was all a big mistake.
There will be a day when I am not the American and no one cares, however today I am that fish that everyone knows and cares for, however they also love to tap on the glass, throw random things in the bowl, among trying to see if I can breath without water. I have to say I don’t mind, there is a balance, and it has it’s ups and downs, but this was an up for sure.
Sure enough it was an unpaid bill for a total of 1900 leke (19 USD) from June 2011, and 600 leke (6 USD) from May of 2008 that caused this issue. Only took them 3-6 years to realize it. I mean in May of 2008, I was in India. Only if I had known back then I would have stated pre-paying my eclectic bill in Albania, then none of this would have happened.